New Canadian Media
Tuesday, 10 April 2018 20:15

White Helmets in Vancouver

By: Deanna Cheng in Vancouver, BC

Sniffles came from the crowd. Even the children present knew to remain quiet.

Syrian journalist Maisoun Almasri said she saw her younger brother get shot by a Syrian government sniper. That sniper prevented anyone from trying to rescue the little boy.

Through a translator, Almasri said no one had any experience doing first aid.

“So my brother lost his life in our arms. We can’t do anything. Looking at me, looking at our mother, all those surrounding him, and we can’t do anything. I was haunted by the look in his eyes.”

She said that look haunted her every night. “The feeling of helplessness will kill you. The guilt of doing nothing will kill you.”

Almasri joined the White Helmets after that moment in 2013.

“The feeling of helplessness will kill you. The guilt of doing nothing will kill you.”-Maisoun Almasri

She uses that first memory as a reminder of what it means to be part of the organization and to prevent it from happening again.

In total, she has lost two younger brothers.

Three White Helmets volunteers shared personal stories of their lives in Syria, through Mohammed Alsaleh and two other translators, to a packed hall at Simon Fraser University. Those three volunteers wished for Vancouver residents to understand the daily tragedies happening abroad, to have a better understanding of what the organization is about, and to pressure the Canadian government into helping them build a democracy similar to the one Canadians enjoy.

Syria Civil Defense

White Helmets, known officially as the Syria Civil Defense, is a formal emergency response team of civilian volunteers and an apolitical organization. Its four principles are humanity, objectivity, neutrality and independence.

Almasri said 112,000 lives have been saved by the White Helmets.

Nedal Izdden, one of its board members, said, “We are the only non-armed group doing this kind of work in Syria.”

He adds that 233 volunteers have lost their lives from this war.

By doing this humanitarian work of easing people’s suffering, Izdden said, the volunteers are sending a clear message that violence can only produce violence.

“We strive for stability in the area.”

The ultimate goal is peace, he said. Rebuild the cities and the country.

“We are the only ones praying to lose our jobs,” he joked.

In contrast to the quiet sounds of a little toddler burbling on her father’s lap in the room, Mustafa Almahamed talked about his 10-year-old nephew dying in his arms on December 15, 2012.

Turning to Almasri on the panel, he said, “That look haunted me too.”

Today, Almahamed is the Syria Civil Defense manager for Daraa, a city in southwestern Syria. He continues to face the results of cluster and barrel bombs.

In the last year and a half, the organization started helping people find places to hide when the bombs hit.

Breaking down Gender Barriers

Almasri shared what women have contributed to the cause.

When White Helmets was first established, she said, there were no more than 10 women.

Now there are over 400 female volunteers and more than 45 women centers.

“We provide the same service as men. This includes carrying people to the ambulances and search and rescue.”

The difference they have made are noted in certain conservative groups where women were uncomfortable being helped by men.

Almasri said gender was a barrier. “Women were able to fill the gap and provide support.”

The women centers provide first aid training, search and rescue efforts and trauma support for children, she said. Outreach programs have volunteers doing demonstrations at schools and in people’s homes.

The goal is one rescuer in each home.

“In six months, we have closed more than 30,000 cases,” Almasri said.

Currently, the organization is training women on how to work with unexploded devices and identify non-traditional weapons such as barrel bombs.

Remaining Apolitical

When asked how White Helmets remain apolitical and how to ensure it remains that way, Izdden said, “We all know countries have a humanitarian side to them and it is the side we are talking to.”

He said the organization is lucky to be recognized by countries such as the United Kingdom, Canada, Germany, Japan and the Netherlands.

In response to the second part of the question, Izdden said the 4,000 White Helmets are not angels.

“We are everyday people. Our work, like schools and institutions, is dedicated to a code of ethics and a code of conduct.”

He said when they recognize a member who isn’t committed to the organization’s four principles or to its code of ethics and conduct, they simply stop their association with the person and he or she is no longer a member.

Reasons for expulsion include using a gun or an affiliation with a political group.

“Mistakes do happen,” Izdden said. “We do our best to address them when they happen.”

Almasri still reports on life within Syria, issues such as safety and socio-economic affairs, in between her duties as the head staff of women’s affairs. She plans to commit fully to journalism after the White Helmets are not needed anymore.

Same as Izddan with dentistry. Same as Almahamed with auto mechanics.

The event was co-hosted by SFU International, PeaceGeeks and the British Consulate-General Vancouver. The three Syrians visited Ottawa with the assistance of Global Affairs Canada before coming to Vancouver.


Deanna Cheng is a member of the NCM Collective based out of Vancouver.

Published in Top Stories

by Florence Hwang in Regina

Attendees from across North America gathered to discuss ways to revitalize Canada’s Chinatowns at the Edmonton Chinese Chinatown Conference, held on June 11 and 12. It’s possibly the first of its kind in terms of scale and scope, says one organizer.

Topics included “Transforming Chinatowns: Social, Economic and Cultural Trends” and “Development Strategy and Planning and the Chinatowns of the Future: What Would This Look Like and How to Sustain Them?”

The first conference on this topic was held in 2011, but it focused mostly on the City of Edmonton. This year’s conference took the issue to a larger stage, drawing on the expertise and experience of Chinatown activists from all over Canada and United States.

Conference organizer Lan Chan-Marples says some recommendations for revitalizing Chinatowns that came out of the weekend included hosting night markets, cultural festivals and historical walking tours.

Chinatowns were formed in the 1880s in major cities in the United States largely because of the Chinese Exclusion Act. In Canada, they arose with the building of the Canadian Pacific Railway, on which many Chinese immigrants worked.

These enclaves enabled Chinese immigrants to form tightly knit communities, capable of defending themselves against hostile external forces, and create job opportunities. 

Before the 1950s, most Chinese immigrants in the United States and Canada came from the southern province of Guangdong. Since then, the population has became much more diversified.

Intention of the conference

Claudia Wong-Rusnak is the City of Edmonton Project Manager for the Chinatown plan. She was also one of the panelists at the conference.

Wong-Rusnak says there have been many decisions made in the past few decades that impacted the city’s Chinatown, but that they now need the residents’ assistance to put those plans into action.

“That’s why we’re having a conference. That’s why we need a comprehensive plan because the old one [that was made in the 1980s] didn’t materialize. The city council is extremely dedicated to seeing Chinatown thrive,” notes Wong-Rusnak. 

She says the two Chinatowns in Edmonton, which are quite close to one another, have had competing interests, making progress difficult.

"The city council is extremely dedicated to seeing Chinatown thrive.”

“The north Chinatown is a very commercial centre. South Chinatown is more of a destination and houses the multicultural centre, the Benevolent Association and the seniors’ home. Ideally, Chinatown should have both elements of business and culture,” she says.

“We’re suggesting we grow a core so that we can have a destination and explore those connections to downtown and to each other physically,” Wong-Rusnak explains. She also hopes that they can “continue storytelling and celebrating our Chinese culture through softer means.”

Revitalising Chinatown’s across Canada

Named Toronto’s first Chinese historian, Valerie Mah discovered very little had been written about the Chinese when she attended Teachers’ College in Toronto.

Mah was born in Brockville, Ontario, where her grandfather had a laundromat and her parents opened a restaurant in 1930. When her mother was born, there were only two Chinese families in town, but many “bachelor” Chinese men owned or worked in Chinese restaurants.

Mah is still involved with the Chinese community, even in her retirement from teaching. She sits on both the Yee Hong and Mon Sheong Board of Governors, two major Chinese retirement homes.

“My hope is to try and help 'East Chinatown' become a vibrant community. Some of the older owners are retiring and I am working on their offspring who are carrying on in the community,” says Mah.

Creating change through collective dialogue

Yi Chen, a filmmaker who was born and who grew up in Shanghai, China, was asked to speak at the conference about her 30-minute documentary that explored Washington, D.C.’s Chinatown. 

Chen said she wanted to be part of this conference because it gathered Chinatown activists from major cities across Canada and the United States to talk about a topic she’s very passionate about. 

“More importantly, this kind of collective dialogue about Chinatown’s future is unprecedented and much needed,” she says.

Like in Edmonton, the Chinese population in D.C. is hoping to revive their Chinatown by working with grassroots and non-profit organizations with similar interests, as well as the municipal government.

"This kind of collective dialogue about Chinatown’s future is unprecedented and much needed.”

Nicole So, who has helped establish the Youth Collaborative for Chinatown group and organized the "Hot and Noisy" mahjong social events in Vancouver, saw the conference as “a unique opportunity that brings together individuals from Chinatown all across North America."

These events are vital “to further the conversation about the different Chinatowns, especially given the rapid developments and changes seen in recent years,” she says.

“Who we are, what we do and where we come from is nested in the history and lives [and] the actions of all those who came before us,” she continues. “So I think it is important to remember and cherish that, especially for someone like myself—to learn about their roots and remember how things used to be.

“New things are always coming along, but once old things are lost, they are gone for good.”

This content was developed exclusively for New Canadian Media and can be re-published with appropriate attribution. For syndication rights, please write to publisher@newcanadianmedia.ca

Published in History

by Tazeen Inam in Mississauga 

New innovative employment programs aim to integrate government-assisted refugees (GARs) into the Canadian labour market.

At the Employment Pathways for Refugees forum at the 18th Metropolis conference 2016 in Toronto, experts discussed how to help refugees find work, not only to help them earn money but also to provide them with a sense of belonging in society. 

This is one of several challenges presented by the current large-scale refugee influx that were at the forefront of the panelists’ discussion. These included cultural, language and low-skill barriers. 

To tackle these barriers, the private sector is implementing innovative pilot projects based on the demographics and needs of GARs during their first year in Canada. 

Creative inclusion of Syrian refugees in BC

The British Colombia Construction Association (BCCA) is one organization with programs to integrate GARs in the B.C. construction industry. The association represents 2,000 employers in the industry.  

Abigail Fulton, vice president of the BCCA, explained that the program starts by identifying an existing employee who can speak English and Arabic. With the help of the worker, they identify individuals within refugees groups, assess their abilities, create a pod of workers and help them get their first jobs in Vancouver’s construction industry. 

“We just started and identified two pods, one as carpenters and one as roofers,” she says. “These people can have a Canadian experience and a sense of belonging as they move on in the construction industry.”

She said the employers are happy too, as they get to hire people with good experience and who are trained by a bilingual employee.

“These people can have Canadian experience and a sense of belonging."

According to Fulton, there is lot of potential in the province's construction industry based on the projects that are being implemented. She suggests that there will be 45,000 openings in the industry over the next few years.

“Syrians are here just in the nick of time. They have the background of the industry and we want to take advantage of that.”

Government programs 

At the same time, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC)’s Policy Innovation Division is planning to test more than 50 projects across the country this fiscal year, all under $5,000 each. 

“We have to test with new partners, new models [as to] how can we get Syrian refugees into labour market,” says Natasha Pateman, director of Policy Innovation Division.

The projects work with 500 organization across Canada and aim to tackle the large-scale refugee influx in the future, particularly regarding refugees with low skills and low language abilities. In addition, they intend to help children and women with integration and language support. 

“We will test how we can provide programming for children and teach them English and French, provide adults with social connections and employment connections in a great variety all across the country,” she says. 

“Syrians are here just in the nick of time."

“One of the groups I am working with that provides entrepreneurship facilities to newcomers, they are planning to work with refugee women who want to sew again. We were able to purchase a couple of sewing machines and will now upgrade their skills,” says Pateman

The process of identifying opportunities goes through the National Settlement council, after which settlement working groups further distribute information through their networks. 

“Probably in a week, we might have all the contracts done. Then it will take some time to call in lists based on teams and geographical locations,” Pateman explains.

She elaborated on some of the projects that were tested last year, including one with Syrian refugee women in St John’s, Newfoundland.

It was based on identifying different herbs and spices that Syrians use in their foods that are not available in the province. These women were taken to local Sobeys and Bulk Barn grocery stores to find similar items so that they could prepare food from their culture. 

“It was an interesting way of social interaction and establishing connections,” adds Pateman.

She says they are talking to both women and men about opportunities in Canada and getting them into the labour market. “We talk to their husbands to let their wives work outside. It’s not negative in Canada, or negative to leave your child at daycare,” she adds.

Employment provides psychological support

Attendees suggested that it’s important from the mental health perspective to integrate traumatized refugees into society. 

Dr. Michaela Hynie of York University said this is very important both for one’s sense of belonging in Canada and to feel like one is respected in the society. 

“When we think why employment is important, its not just the contribution to a family as income, but also important for other kinds of integration outcomes,” she says.

IRCC’s Policy Innovation Division is planning to test more than 50 projects this fiscal year

While she complimented the idea of devising creative ways for refugees to access employment, Hynie says she thinks the employment sector will have to learn more about the challenges refugees face when looking for work.

“Employment is important whether it provides adequate income, whether the employment is secure or whether the employment can provide opportunities for development and growth. It’s important for the individual and for the Canadian society as a whole,” she concludes.  

This content was developed exclusively for New Canadian Media and can be re-published with appropriate attribution. For syndication rights, please write to publisher@newcanadianmedia.ca

Published in Top Stories
Wednesday, 24 February 2016 16:55

"Diversity Without Inclusion Has No Meaning"

by Shan Qiao in Toronto

Employers and participants at the 2016 Diversity@Work Conference learned that creating diverse workplaces is about more than just hiring more newcomers.

“Inclusion is a state of being valued, respected and supported. It’s about focusing on the needs of every individual and ensuring the right conditions are in place for each person to achieve his or her full potential,” said keynote speaker Zanita DiSalle, who is Royal Bank of Canada’s (RBC) regional vice president for West Brampton.

She explained that diversity reaches should include all those traditionally “excluded” groups such as women, visible minorities, LGBT, aboriginal and indigenous people, persons with disabilities and millennials.

“Diversity without inclusion has no meaning. Without inclusive practice, there is no respect to people’s difference,” DiSalle continues. 

The role of the conference

About 150 participants, including job seekers, employers, human resources professionals, diversity consultants, lawyers and students attended the conference, held on Feb. 19 at Ryerson University’s Ted Rogers School of Management.

The conference organizer and executive director of Skills for Change, Surranna Sandy, expressed how important she feels the conference, now in its seventh year, is.

“We want employers to particularly understand the value and the role immigrants can play to make their businesses very successful. We look at different things, for example, how diversity helps you [business] make more money, helps you gain more customers, helps you retain your staff. This year, we look at the future for diversity, what strategies and tools you need to have,” Sandy added. 

“Inclusion is a state of being valued, respected and supported."

One speaker, filmmaker Ian Sun, explored how the technological revolution changed workplace diversity. Ontario Human Rights Commission’s chief commissioner Renu Mandhane was also present to discuss perspectives on human rights and diversity. 

Workshops during the day focused on different approaches to diversity and inclusion, such as how to create inclusive workspaces; understanding and minimizing unconscious bias in hiring; the gender identity and expression toolkit to create authentic workplaces; and best practices for workspaces with multiple generations. 

Experiences of diversity and inclusion

In her keynote, DiSalle explained that when she came from Jamaica to start her new life in Canada, she immediately realized the difference between her and her classmates after dressing in her traditional bandana shirt to go to kindergarten.

“I heard one lovely little girl tell her friend, ‘Don’t touch her, or you will become brown,’” she said. “Do we have diversity? Yes. Is it inclusive? No.”

“Do we have diversity? Yes. Is it inclusive? No.”

To further illustrate how our physical differences are only skin-deep, DiSalle played a video created by the Ad Council titled “Love Has No Labels”. It features people on the street watching as pairs of skeletons on a screen talk, kiss and hug. 

When the pairs come out from behind the screen, it’s revealed that among the skeleton pairings are are same-sex couples, interracial couples, seniors and people with disabilities. This is meant to demonstrate that love takes many forms, but at its core, it looks the same.

Diversity in the workplace

Part of the day’s discussion addressed whether applicants’ foreign-sounding names, accents and credentials could be barriers during the interview process. 

Employers also discussed how they could help newcomers develop social and language skills in the workplace so that they can fully integrate into the organization.

When asked about how to foster diversity while hiring to fit job requirements, DiSalle answered: “For our hiring process, we found objectivity is essential rather than subjectivity.

“Because [of] this objective process we have, we ensure that we have different stages of interview process that are based on objective measures and objective questions. Depending on how people do in different stages, we determine whether or not they move to the next stage.” 

Employers also discussed how they could help newcomers develop social and language skills in the workplace.

While affirmative action in job and university recruitment continues to be a subject of debate, DiSalle stressed that an objective approach to hiring aims to recognize all the skills employees bring to the company.

“Inclusion is looking at a person as a whole — not just their education, physical characteristics, cultural background or work experience, but how all the elements work together, ” said DiSalle.

To help businesses in Canada integrate newcomers into their workplaces, RBC partners with organizations like Maytree Foundation to provide online tools and resources on sites like Hire Immigrants.

Including the millennial generation

The conference also heard from young people who are eager to participate in the job market.

“We just started a diversity consulting firm, specifically for attention of the millennials and diversity in workplace,” said Shanthiya Baheerathan, a fellow at Studio Y experimental consulting firm at MaRS Discovery District, Canada’s largest innovation hub located in downtown Toronto. 

In our education and workplace system, we start to realize that diversity is representation, rather than inclusion, “ Shanthiya explained.

She explained that representation is just having people in the room, as opposed to having people in the room who are meaningfully involved in the workplace. 

“This is not just race and gender or ability. It's a wide range of things, which includes age, especially as 20 per cent of the population and 40 per cent of the workforce will become the representative of the millennials.” 

“I think workplaces should really move towards to making themselves more inclusive,” she concluded. 

This content was developed exclusively for New Canadian Media and can be re-published with appropriate attribution. For syndication rights, please write to publisher@newcanadianmedia.ca

 

Published in Top Stories

THE following is Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s address at the joint press ceonference with Prime Minister Stephen Harper in Ottawa on Wednesday:

I am delighted to visit this beautiful country and this charming city.

I attach the highest importance to India’s relations with Canada.

This has been reinforced by my excellent experience with Canada as Chief Minister of Gujarat.

Our relationship had drifted in the past. In recent years, Prime Minister Harper’s vision and leadership changed the course of our relations.

Indo-Canadian Voice

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Published in National

The immigration system has undergone a continuous evolution over the last decade, with the latest change being the introduction of the “express entry” system. But some believe...

Canadian Immigrant

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Published in Policy
Monday, 29 December 2014 08:14

Brown Canada 2020 Summit

by Thamina Jaferi (@ThaminaJaferi

On December 10, 2014, CASSA (Council of Agencies Serving South Asians) organized a conference titled ‘Brown Canada 2020 Summit’ at York University which also coincided with International Human Rights Day.

The summit commemorated the 100th anniversary of the Komagata Maru event of 1914 which saw Canada deny entry to 376 Indians aboard the Komagata Maru ship due to the discriminatory Asian Exclusion Act.

The purpose of the summit was to highlight the gains that South Asian Canadians have made since that event, but also to identify the many current challenges that these communities continue to face in the areas of education, employment, immigration, healthcare, and the criminal justice system. Participants also helped identify the outcomes they would like see for 2020.

Although the Komagata Maru incident has been acknowledged as a condemned racist stain upon Canadian history, the reality is that the same type of discrimination and exclusion towards South Asian and other racialized Canadians exists today.

During the summit, it was emphasized that the terms “South Asian” and “Brown” do not refer to a homogeneous identity and that in addition to being contested concepts, CASSA uses them in an inclusive manner that recognizes the rich ethnic, cultural and spiritual diversity of this community. The summit also considered the intersectionality of South Asian identities, and the layers of hierarchy that impact our understanding of these identities.

Many of the issues identified highlighted the need for South Asian communities to engage in political activism and lobbying in order to hold their elected representatives accountable in serving the needs of their diverse constituents.

Some of the main points that came out of these sessions were:

  • It’s important to have people on school boards that reflect the community’s diverse populations and interests.
  • Schools need to be true “community hubs” that bring social services to local communities, families and children.

  • Many South Asian communities have expressed concern about school curriculums being Eurocentric. There is a need to incorporate and celebrate the histories of South Asian Canadians as well as their contributions to Canadian history. Public school enrollment also seems to be declining due to the appeal of private schools which meet the cultural and faith needs of different South Asian communities.

  • There is a critical need for both students and teachers to see people that look like them in positions of power in order to foster equity and trust in the public school system. This requires examining structural and systemic barriers that prevent South Asian teachers from being hired, retained and promoted.

  • Streaming of South Asian students into career paths that do not account for their potential is unacceptable.

  • The lack of mental health supports for students is a serious concern.

  • There are very real pressures that South Asian communities face in having to “assimilate” into dominant cultures in order to succeed at school, and in the workplace instead of developing their own unique identities and defining success on their own terms.

  • People should collaborate with the labour movement in advocating for better jobs, wages, and career advancement as these issues intersect with many of the barriers South Asian communities face in the workplace. Additionally, unions need to see diversity as a business model otherwise they will not survive.

  • Foreign-born and Canadian-born racialized youth are experiencing high rates of unemployment when compared with the Canadian average, and they have inadequate career guidance which affects their career prospects.

  • Social safety nets are being eroded and the focus of equity champions should be on not losing ground but also on having a shared, collaborative vision for going forward.

Although the Komagata Maru incident has been acknowledged as a condemned racist stain upon Canadian history, the reality is that the same type of discrimination and exclusion towards South Asian and other racialized Canadians exists today. Examples of this include cuts to refugee healthcare, the introduction of highly problematic laws such as Bill S-7 or the “Zero Tolerance for BarbaricCultural Practices Act” which unjustly targets specific cultural and faith communities, and citizenship restrictions, among others.

A big takeaway of this summit was the importance of collaboration and building solidarity amongst different equity-seeking communities facing the same barriers, as there is powerful strength in unity.


Thamina Jaferi, B.A., J.D., is an Associate with Turner Consulting Group with expertise in human rights and workplace discrimination and harassment prevention. You can read Thamina's original blog article here.

Published in National
Wednesday, 15 October 2014 03:01

Inspirational women’s conference in Vancouver

The fourth annual Women in Biz Network (WIBN) conference takes place on October 19 and 20, and will feature two Profit Canada Magazine top women entrepreneurs, Kelsey Ramsden and Victoria Sopik. TSN Canada’s first female broadcaster Teresa Kruze and Juno Award-winning Aboriginal artists Brenda MacIntyre, known as Success Shamman, will also speak at the inspirational conference. 

Asian Pacific Post

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Published in National

 Cecil Rosner has had a long and varied career as a journalist. For the past ten years he has served as managing editor of CBC Manitoba – which gives him responsibility “for all editorial content – radio, TV, online that comes out of CBC Manitoba,” he explains.

The Jewish Post and News

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Published in Education

 

From multicultural digital marketing to in-depth shoppalongs with South Asian consumers, there are a lot of learnings not to be missed at the second annual Canadian Grocer/Marketing magazine Ethnic Consumer Insights Conference on March 25.

Taking place at the International Centre in Mississauga, this year’s exciting keynote speaker is Laura Lee, director – head of entertainment East partnerships, YouTube/Google.

Lee will kick off the full-day event with a discussion on how Google Canada is working with some of the country’s most-loved brands to reach multicultural consumers with unique, engaging content on YouTube.

She’ll share examples of made-for-digital campaigns that focused on telling a deeper, more emotionally-resonant story with ethnic consumers, as well as talk about what’s next in the future of digital marketing.

READ: Ethnic conference highlights 2013

Next, Judy Chang, director of analytics at Nielsen will provide the latest data into the growing ethnic consumer groups in Canada, along with the opportunities to reach them.

Then hear from Pearl Strategy & Innovation Design’s research into the South Asian consumer.

Find out about the brands and categories that resonate with these consumers based on their exclusive shop-along and in-depth studies among new immigrants and those who’ve been in Canada five years or more.

GALLERY: View 2013 Ethnic conference photo album

Following Pearl Strategy’s presentation, there will be exclusive case studies presented on successful programs that resonated with ethnic consumers.

A lively discussion with be next with retailers: Sobeys, H-mart, Overwaitea Food Group, and Al Premium on how they’re reaching ethnic consumers with innovative store layouts and programs.

For the full conference agenda, go here.

Spaces are limited, so purchase your tickets to this event today.

Canadian Grocer

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Published in Economy
Page 1 of 3

Poll Question

Do you agree with the new immigration levels for 2017?

Yes - 30.8%
No - 46.2%
Don't know - 23.1%
The voting for this poll has ended on: %05 %b %2016 - %21:%Dec

Featured Quote

The honest truth is there is still reluctance around immigration policy... When we want to talk about immigration and we say we want to bring more immigrants in because it's good for the economy, we still get pushback.

-- Canada's economic development minister Navdeep Bains at a Public Policy Forum economic summit

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